Boruto – Naruto The Movie (Cert 12)
1 Disc (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running Time: 95 Minutes approx.
The timing of the UK release for this Naruto spin-off film is intriguing in that it is one massive spoiler for how the Shippuden series concludes, despite 140-odd episodes still left to run here. Then again, the previous Naruto film The Last also ended with a spoiler so the precedent has already been set.
Where Boruto differs is in being set many years after the main TV series and focuses on the eponymous son of Naruto, an archetypal chip off the old apple tree – i.e.: a hot headed, impetuous ball of mischievous energy. Boruto even resembles his father albeit with floppier hair but the gregarious personality and lofty aspirations remain hereditary personality traits.
Naruto has finally achieved his dream of becoming the seventh Hokage but finds himself snowed under with official paperwork and similar duties to the point that he is forced to send a shadow clone to daughter Himawari’s birthday dinner. This angers Boruto who is already at odds with his Naruto, resenting the position of Hokage for taking up so much of his absent father’s time.
This forms the basis of the film’s overarching plot, providing us with an interesting platform to get to know the heir of the Naruto franchise. There is no ambiguity or irony in the fact that the formative years of both father and son were plagued with having to grow up with paternal influence, the difference openly acknowledged by Boruto in that Naruto didn’t have “the same distraction growing up” that he did.
As cruel as this sounds, it is the rationale of a petulant child who simply wants his father to play a bigger part in his Himawari and their mother Hinata’s lives and not stuck in the office 24/7. But while Naruto became a ninja through wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps, Boruto’s intent differs in the freedom it offers him to leave the Hidden Leaf village take part in missions and be a powerful ninja.
It’s an interesting dichotomy, a father and son so intrinsically alike yet so distant both geographically and emotionally, making what is essentially a retread of the early days of Naruto’s story much more palatable. There is no right or wrong in their thinking – Naruto clearly doesn’t enjoy the responsibility of being Hokage and would rather be at home but also understands the importance of his duty which he can’t take lightly.
Boruto doesn’t see the problem from the same perspective as his father and is assuming this anger on behalf of his mother and sister, both too polite to say or feel anything negative about it. But this is a Naruto film and soon enough some generic bad guys conveniently appear on the scene to steal the Nine-Tailed Fox from Naruto and attain immortality, this common enemy designed to bring father and son together on the same page.
The reason for spending much of this review discussing the relationship plot is that it is the best thing about it. Well written, balanced, mature and emotionally resonant without resorting to cheap schmaltz, it makes for a pleasant change from the usual fare presented by Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto, providing the story and co-writing the screenplay, and bodes well with much promise for the direction the franchise will take with Boruto as the lead.
However this wasn’t written for someone like me, it was written for the fans so it has to feature all of the constituent elements that makes Naruto the popular shonen fantasy series it is. Therefore, the second half of this film is business as usual with the old faces – now as grown-ups in the roles of the new Five Kage – forming a rescue party for the obligatory explosive climax, and to its credit, it is certainly that.
With the timeline of this story being quite far removed from where we are in the current Shippuden series, there are Easter eggs for long-term fans to spot the offspring of the current ninjas who are not all identified but enough physical and personality traits are on display to make a successful guess. Boruto’s teammates in the Chunin Exams are (spoiler) Sasuke and Sakura’s daughter Sanada and a mysterious lad named Mitsuki, whose parentage is revealed in a post credits scene.
The Leaf Village itself has also undergone many changes with the introduction of modern technology now prevalent. Television now exists as do computers and hand held game devices. The ramen stalls have been replaced by burger joints and the storefronts now have windows and neon signs, but the familiar rural aesthetic of the architecture remains intact.
Undergoing the biggest change is Naruto and just because his spiky hair has been cut short either. He is far more subdued and deliberate in his actions, and dare I say it, doesn’t stand out as much as he once did. His voice is still in that early pubescent stage despite being a strapping adult male undermining an authority he should have as Hokage. But, when it comes to protecting the village, it is the same old Naruto with his powers turned up to eleven.
For a theatrical release the animation isn’t too far removed from the TV show, astonishing given the budget should be higher than usual. There are some interesting little flashes of creativity present during the battle scenes, looking as spectacular as you’d expect them to as result, but that is the extent of the images improving on what we’ve seen before.
At the risk of stating the obvious, Boruto is for the devoted Naruto fan, possessing far too many reference points to the original series to alienate anyone looking at this as a jumping on point. There is promise for the adventures of Boruto if they concentrate on exploring the father-son dynamic and not just rely on the contrived application of the shonen hijinks.
For this writer Boruto is half an interesting and intelligent family drama, half same old Naruto.
English Language 2.0 Stereo LCPM
English Language 5.1 DTS-HD MA
Japanese Language 2.0 Stereo LCPM
Japanese Language 5.1 DTS-HD MA
The Day Naruto Became Hokage
90 Second Trailer
30 Second Trailer
Rating – ***
Man In Black